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Scene from 'Fishing' directed by Jan Cvitkovic. Photo courtesy of the Canadian Film Institute.

International film festivals bring the absurd, the beautiful, and the hilarious to Ottawa

By Apartment613 on May 13, 2019

By Julia Aguiar

The Canadian Film Institute (CFI) has a long and rich tradition of offering an eclectic selection of cinema spanning the globe to the Ottawa community. Most recently, the CFI hosted its sixth annual European Union Short Film Festival which took place from May 2–4, 2019.

Hosted in collaboration with the EU Delegation in Canada, the festival showcased established and emerging talent from over twenty EU member states. The films displayed an impressive range of cinematic styles including animation, historic black and white, silent pictures, and musicals. The festival was divided into three programs, one per day, each with its own distinct theme that proved both timeless and timely.

Scene from ‘Fishing’ directed by Jan Cvitkovic. Photo courtesy of the Canadian Film Institute.

Highlights from the first evening, titled “Flux: The Only Constant Is Change,” included an elderly woman’s attempt to loosen dementia’s hold on her by partaking in a conceptual journey into the past; a snapshot of an elderly couple’s afternoon of fishing turned rumination on ageing; and a man who finds his plans to escape to the countryside in the midst of a divorce complicated when he discovers that his cottage is inhospitable.

Scene from ‘The Burden’ directed by Niki Lindroth Von Bahr. Photo courtesy of the Canadian Film Institute.

The second evening, titled “The Imagination: Beautiful and Dangerous,” offered a thoughtful meditation on exactly that. To take a few examples, the audience bore witness to an eclectic collection of singing land and sea animals situated in commercial spaces, which was altogether absurd, beautiful, and profound; an exchange ladened with tension between a mourning father and a man professing to be Jesus Christ minutes before the supposed end of the world; and an unrelenting look at the power of landscape in triggering memory.

The final short of the evening featured a pair of security guards, one who works the day shift and the other the evening shift, who eventually find themselves sharing in their love for dance. The film offers a reflection on the pervasive surveillance society we find ourselves in, but does so in a fresh way, that had the audience in heaps of laughter.

Scene from The Mole as a Painter. Photo courtesy of the Canadian Film Institute.

The concluding program was curated with children in mind, offering an endearing collection of animated shorts, ranging from a Soviet-era film starring an artistically inspired mole to a more modern short depicting the trials and tribulations of flying a kite.

The festival was delivered in the Arts Court Theatre and Studio on Daly Avenue, which is one of the CFI’s several venues.

A variety of embassies were present for the festival representing their respective countries and even offering culinary delicacies to be enjoyed by the audience in advance of each screening. During this time, dialogue between the audience was also encouraged. The success of the EU Short Film Festival is a testament to the community’s enthusiasm and interest in arts and culture across the globe.

The Canadian Film Institute has plenty ahead:

If you are seeking an opportunity to be intellectually challenged, looking for an escape, or entertainment, be sure to keep these events on your radar.